Tuesday, February 5, 2013

GTOG Instant Reaction: Eat, Despres, Love; Pens Win, 4-2

By Artistry

That play by Sidney Crosby in the last minute of the game - when he took on the Islanders defense along the boards, denying them the puck, outworking and out-skating and out-stickhandling three guys - that is the essence of what we missed for the past two years. Just glorious. Quick thoughts on game:

 - Simon Despres has to be better than expected for the Pens to make a run with this defense, and tonight he was. The baby gazelle will still have some growing pains, but when he flashes, he flashes. The big hit in one zone and a one-time blast for a goal in the other? What an unbelievable shift.

- Speaking of exceeding expectations, can this whole Brooks Orpik/Paul Martin shutdown thing be real? Averaging 25 minutes a game against the opposition's top line, and neither of them have a single penalty minute through 10 games. And Martin is starting to make plays in the offensive zone, getting the puck low and on net for deflections and spinning off of guys trying to defend him on the point. Basically, if you see Paul Martin on the street, you should salute.

- The Pens killed off about 6 straights minutes of penalties in the second period. It was not unlike the Dance...of Champions.

- Marc-Andre Fleury was outstanding through two periods, but struggled with controlling rebounds in the third.  Whether he thinks so or not, healthy competition with Vokoun suits him.

- After hearing the Islanders' fans cheer when Sidney Crosby lay bleeding on the ice after taking a puck to the face, I wasn't sorry anymore that their team is moving to Brooklyn.

- Before Mark Recchi, before Kevin Stevens, even before Downtown Robby Brown, whenever we watched a game my friends and I would play "What if" with Mario Lemieux. As in, What if Lemieux had Dino Cicarrelli on his line. Imagine Tony Tanti on Mario's wing. What if we had Rick Tocchet (that wish came true). It's what you do when any great player lacks a proper wing man, but when you're dealing with a talent discrepancy such as the one between Lemieux and, say, Perry Ganchar, the What if game takes on a whole different intensity and level of longing. Anyhow, I thought about all that Tuesday every time Michael Grabner exploded into empty ice. What if Crosby were the one looking to get him the puck?

- Haven't made a ruling yet on Zack Boychuk. Nice speed and good creativity, but you can see why he's had a tough time sticking at this level.  Get a body on him and he's pretty much finished.

- Tanner Glass is a man.

- Don't look now, but as of this second the Pens lead the Eastern Conference. Seriously, don't look now, it's meaningless. Caps in town on Thursday.


  1. That shift by Despres was one of the manliest things I've ever seen.

    Is Glass in training to be the new Craig Adams?

  2. I defended PM and expected him to have a better season, once he got some space between himself and last season's snowball and Z. Mickalek. And I expected a healthy Orpik to be big. But, g'lord, it's more glorious than I might have imagined.

    Flower throws down that performance, despite 7 penalties, and all you got is fussing over a couple of rebounds? So much latent Flower hate. Why can't this fan base just be happy that we have 2 strong goalies?

    1. Brandy -- I have to step in and defend Artistry here. This is what he wrote about Fleury: "Marc-Andre Fleury was outstanding through two periods, but struggled with controlling rebounds in the third. Whether he thinks so or not, healthy competition with Vokoun suits him."

      I'm not sure how that qualifies as latent Flower hate. He was great through two periods, then struggled with controlling rebounds in the third. That's a factual statement.

      One thing we try to do here is avoid a problem that plagues a lot of the Pens' fan-base (not you, of course! We love you): being more concerned about being right about a specific player than with trying to objectively evaluate a player. Either Fleury is 100% blameless or he's a bum. Either Crosby can't carry Malkin's jock, or Malkin can't carry Crosby's. Either Simon Despres is the new Nick Lidstrom, or we should trade him tomorrow.

      Just because we comment positively or negatively about one of the Penguins doesn't mean we are taking sides on the internal culture war among the fan-base. When we say Brandon Sutter sucked after six games, that's because Brandon Sutter sucked after six games. We aren't saying he will suck forever or that it was a dumb trade. We are making observations on the fly, on a game-by-game basis.

      With respect to Fleury specifically: we love the guy, and root for him as hard as we root for any player. But over the last two years, he's had a lot of flaws in his game -- sometimes glaring. That recent history frames our analysis of him. So yes, we have a healthy skepticism that at the moment, he isn't quite the goalie he was in the 2009 playoffs. If he starts getting closer to that level again, we will be the shouting his praises as loud as anyone.


    2. "No Latency" is actually a good band name.

  3. Agreed about the fan base - and that objectivity is exactly my point.

    You say glaring mistakes have crept in his game the last couple of years. Was that during the 10-11 season when he was MVP and drug the Sid and Geno-less Pens into the playoffs single-handedly? Or was that most of last year, when his play masked the team's defensive deficiencies until he got tired in March without a back-up? Or is it this season, when he's given up 5 goals in the 4 games his team actually showed up to play? They won last night because of his play.

    You've both consistently said you don't trust Fleury and that he's not "calm" in the net. And that's impression, not objectivity. He had a bad playoffs, and the fan base can't let it go, regardless of what they see on the ice game by game. Honestly, I'm not worked up about it (nor do I have any special attachment to Fleury as a player) - it's just what I see objectively.

    Re: Sutter, since you brought it up. Saw this and found it really interesting:


    His on-ice goals/60 min was at .56 before last night, far lower than anyone else on the team. And he starts 60% of his shifts in the d-zone.

    1. Not sure what we're arguing about this point. What part of what the post says do you disagree with? That Fleury was outstanding through two periods? That he gave up some juicy rebounds in the third? That competition with Vokoun is a good thing?

      Yes, it's true I am not completely comfortable with Fleury in net right now. Yes, that is subjective. And yes, it is based - not on when he's played well - but rather on his suckage in the playoffs last year and his shakiness on isolated plays this year. Nothing revelatory here. Time to move on.

      Very interesting stat about Sutter. I still have high hopes - he strikes me as a guy that may elevate his play in the postseason.

    2. And incidentally - I read this blog because I find you both to be generally objective, without the garbage and player-bashing so often seen in the rest of the fan base. Doesn't mean I won't call you out if I don't think whatever you say is an accurate assessment (or that you can't stick to your point).

    3. I missed the memo that said you can't evaluate a goalie unless the team in front of him is playing well. I also searched the site for the word "calm." Two hits, none related to Fleury in any way whatsoever.

      I'm not sure who started the excuse the Fleury was tired in the playoffs last year. He was 10th among goalies last year in minutes played. Jonathan Quick was 4th, Mike Smith was 9th, Henrik Lundqvist was 11th and Martin Brodeur is 40 years old. They were the last 4 goalies in the playoffs. Pretty sure they didn't get tired.